Knights of Pen & Paper is an RPG. But it's an RPG that's about a bunch of adventurer people sitting down to play a pen and paper RPG. So... when you play the game, you're actually playing a game about a game, even though both games are basically the same game. Penandpaperception, anyone? While these folks sit and enjoy their Dungeons & Dragons-type adventure, you get to take care of everything else, from fighting battles to accepting quests, upgrading skills and hunting down better equipment. And if that isn't interesting enough, you can buy the players a snack, maybe while eating a similar snack of your own?
With your party seated at the table and the dungeon master across the way, your journey begins. Tap the DM to do just about everything, from setting up quests (which you mix and match on your own), choosing quick battles, buying/upgrading items, or camping out for the night. Tap party members to manage their skills or check out stats, something you'll pay more and more attention to as the game progresses. Battles are handled with a similarly pristine menu system that allows you to attack, guard, use items and spells, or run away like a chicken, all with one or two quick gestures. The latter icon really is a chicken, by the way. Just thought you'd like to know that.
Even though Knights of Pen & Paper is very meta in nature, the in-game game still features a story, one that slowly unfolds as you help old men clear the enemies from their basements and escort lost children back to their homes. Don't take it (or anything you come across) too seriously, though, as the quirky humor and emphasis on combat and item collection definitely take center stage in the game.
Analysis: Knights of Pen & Paper is set up for the grind. It's an open-ended, pick your own missions, wage your own battles, see how much gold you can gather sort of game that keeps you hooked because there's always something new to unlock. It's enormously satisfying to beef your adventurers up so they can handle bigger and badder quests, and even though their skills aren't exactly epic in nature, combat is more than just hitting "attack" over and over again. It never hurts that the game looks like every retro RPG we've ever loved rolled into one delicious pixellated package.
Here's the only real downside to Knights of Pen & Paper: its reliance on gold and nudging players to spend real world money to keep the coffers full. Just about everything you do in the game costs gold, from hiring new adventurers to buying items, upgrading equipment, and even traveling to new parts of the map. You gain gold through battle, of course, but the rate at which you earn is far slower than the rate at which you would need to spend to keep the game moving forwards. In other words, you either grind by fighting enemies over and over again, or you indulge in an IAP. Not a pleasant choice, if you ask us, and some balancing of this aspect could really use some addressing for the next update.
With its gold system tweaked just a bit, Knights of Pen & Paper could easily be one of the best, if not the most blindly entertaining casual RPG on the mobile market. It's got all the ingredients for a pick up and play game, but there's enough to explore to keep you coming back for days on end.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPad. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.